|Series Theme: Meditations in Ephesians|
Meditation No. 9
Meditation Title: Responsive Prayer
Eph 1:15,16 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
We commented only just recently in these meditations about link words that are at the beginning of a verse that link it with what has gone before, and here in verse 15 we have the most obvious of linkages, “For this reason…..” Now what is the reason? It's partly given in the words that follow but mostly he is referring back to what he has said about them previously. In verse 12 he had spoken about “we, who were the first to hope in Christ,” meaning the Jews who were the first believers, but then he went on to refer directly to the Ephesians themselves when he said, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth” (v.13a) and again, “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” (v.13b). So he has been speaking about how they had turned to Christ.
He had first come to Ephesus with Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:19 ) but had stayed briefly. Then shortly afterwards he came back (Acts 19:1-) when he encountered some believers who had apparently not received the Holy Spirit. When “Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.” (Acts 19:6) Perhaps this was what he had in mind when he referred previously to them being sealed with the Holy Spirit. After this he spoke in the synagogue for three months and then took over a public hall and stayed there and had daily discussions for two years (Acts 19:8-10). Paul clearly had a strong signs and wonders ministry there and a strong deliverance ministry followed (Acts 19:11-20). In other words he had great impact in the city and many became believers.
It seems strange, therefore, that he should go on to say, “ever since I heard about your faith…” because he clearly knew of their faith. Perhaps it is that many more Christians had been added to the church since he was last there and so he is addressing a much wider audience than he previously had. So what would appear to be the situation is that he had known many of them when he had been there previously but many more had been added and news has come to him of the church growth, a very healthy church growth. Now why do we say that? Because it is what he has heard about them that has provoked him to give thanks to God. He has heard about their “faith in the Lord Jesus,” and their “love for all the saints.” Do you see those two things – faith that produces love. Now that IS healthy!
Let's consider these things a bit more. They have established their lives based on what they have heard from God about Jesus – that is faith. Everything they are flows out of this belief; they live according to it. Jesus died for them, Jesus won their hearts and now they want to be like him. He loved the world so now they love each other and they love the world (implied – love doesn't stop inside the church!). That is real faith. So-called faith that alienates others because of this Jesus is not the Christian faith that these Ephesians knew and Paul had preached. His gospel transformed lives and made new people, people who would love other people just like they were – just like Jesus did!
As the news of this growing church in Ephesus gets back to Paul he is just overwhelmed by what he hears. Yes, he had preached the Gospel there and it had born fruit and the church had been established, but now he hears that it is growing and going on with God, that they are strong with a real faith in Christ that produces love that reaches out to one another and into the world. This thrills him and he just can't help giving thanks to God because he knows that it is all the work of God. Yes, he had the privilege of starting it off but the Holy Spirit has carried it on through others and so there is growth and blessing. When you see the work of God you cannot help but give thanks as you realise the wonder of what he has achieved. Paul is just so grateful that he has heard of it.
But it is more than just thanks. There is a flow here. He knew of them in the past, and now he's heard of them again. What he hears now evokes thanks in him for the wonder of what God has done there, and as that brings them to even stronger remembrance it stirs him to pray for them. We'll see in the next meditation what he prays but for now, see something significant. This appears to have been a church which has grown and grown healthily. You would think that they wouldn't need praying for, but Paul thinks otherwise. He knows we are all in need of God's ongoing grace, whether we are doing badly and have very obvious needs of help, or whether we are doing well, in which we need God's grace to keep us, sustain us, and keep us growing.
Oh yes, we all need God's grace and Paul knows that when he prays he can be a channel through whom God can move to bring ongoing blessing. For him prayer was a vital element in the Christian life. He blessed people, not only by bringing them the Gospel, preaching, teaching and discussing, but also by praying for them. It wasn't prayer or witness, but both. Have we caught the realization that we can bless people even when we're not with them, simply by praying for them and releasing God's goodness to them in that way? May we learn it and live it.